Interior Design & Décor: What is Custom Design?

Within this blog we will be going in-depth with what custom design really means, the different types of custom design, along with the incredible advantages. In the most simplistic way, custom design is the creation of a piece that is not purchased off the shelf or as-is. There are elements of the item that are altered to fit the space in a more cohesive way, and to better express the homeowner’s personality as well. Being part of the process when selecting custom furniture is a very exciting time because you are opting for a truly unique personalization that is ultimately higher quality and one of a kind! We will be going through the four main approaches to take when considering bringing custom design into your space.


Dimensional customization is typically the most common out of all the categories. This type of custom design can be quite useful to better accommodate height if you’re taller or shorter, or if you want to make a piece suitable for children. Another way to add dimensional customization to a space is through the width or length and this can be especially useful when you’re working with some of the smaller existing footprints of homes, or if you want a grand sofa/dining table for entertaining. The possibilities for dimensional custom design are endless! We have a few examples of dimensional customization below.

We have included a few projects that we have worked on above that includes dimensional customization: the first two images are from the Flatstick Pub (Pioneer Square) project where Shane, one of our architects at Atelier Drome built the tables in his own shop. Images three and four are from the Leschi residential project where Shane built a custom bench that is utilized at the dining room table. Photos five and six are from the Orange Studios commercial project where Shane built a highly personalized desk. Lastly, the next images are from our Ballard Bungalow project where a custom stool was built, so that it could be stored away perfectly.


The second type of custom design is finish and this can be included on wood, metal, and fabric. As far as the wood finish items, the details that need to be considered are durability, color, and wood species. Manufactures typically have a selection that you can choose from, but in very custom cases you can pick your own wood species- this is more likely to occur if you’re working with a local craftsman- big companies generally have ‘pre-approved’ options. The next custom finish option is fabric and some vendors will have an existing set of fabrics you can choose from, but in some cases, you will need to do a COM. A “COM” or Customer’s Own Material- that’s when you select a fabric and have it sent to the workroom to have the fabric applied in lieu of the manufactures existing options. In this case the manufacturers want to approve the fabric to make sure it’s suitable (i.e. you’re not using sheer drapery fabric on a sofa!) for the type of use that you have in mind, and they will be working with your designer to find a good fit as well. The photos that are shown here show a couple custom finish items from our own projects like a console that incorporated custom metal and wood finishes and a living room set with custom fabrics and textures for the sofa, chair, tables and ottoman.

The images above display previous material boards that we have worked on to show our clients sample materials, along with giving them a clear understanding of the color, finish, and overall aesthetic.


Our next custom design category is custom textiles- this is such a fun way to incorporate designs that will always be sure to make your space feel unique to your style and personality! There is a large array of items that this can be added to this list, but first we will start off with upholstery. This can include one-ff items throughout the home- for example this can include window seats, refinishing a vintage chair, new cushions for the outdoor- you name it! When selecting the upholstery, the most crucial component is the fabric, because the selection will be based on durability, cleanability, color/pattern, wave, and texture. Another component is pillow inserts and this can be down or down alternative (vegan) pillow inserts. Foam is another item to think about as well when determining the right custom upholstery for you- with this, keeping in mind the density, resistance to mildew/allergens (especially for outdoor furniture), and the use (whether this will be a high traffic area or not). A couple of the last items that go with upholstery that cannot be forgotten are seam details that can include plain, flat, and piping, along with tufting details that either include the diamond or the biscuit type of looks.

Window covers are also a fantastic way to bring in custom textiles into your home that will add the extra special touch. The most typical type of window coverings are drapery and valences, which have a wide variety of aesthetics- that include transparency lining that can be sheer, or blackout. Other options also include an unlimited amount of fabrics, the fullness, which is generally how much the fabric folds or billows, length, and the heading style method- pocket, peats, or tabs.


The last type of custom design that you can receive within the interiors realm are light fixtures. This type is less common but is outstanding for a statement piece! Again, what is possible does depend on the manufacturer. One way that you could change a light fixture to better meet your aesthetic needs is to play with the dimensions. This could potentially be for a specific drop from the ceiling or custom width for a foyer/over a dining table-size is often scaled proportionally. The next area that you could work with the fixture is to change the finishes by enhancing the color/metal/or glass. This can be done to match a color scheme or to an existing piece. If the light fixture is glass, a few ways that the material could be altered is to create an opaque/semi opaque look, seeded, or etched.

This piece was written by Interior Designer & Architect, Annie who has been with Atelier Drome for over 5 years and has a wide array of skill sets. Annie is a skilled designer with a hybridized and human-centered approach to spaces. With a dual Masters in Architecture and Interior Architecture from the University of Oregon, she enjoys solving spatial problems on all scales – from programming and massing,

to custom furnishings.

Annie’s interest in melding interior design and architecture comes from her desire to engage with occupants in a more personal and nuanced way. “I love having the ability to speak the language on both ends of the spectrum,” she says of her dual focus. From “the ephemeral nature of interiors,” to the “more frozen” nature of architecture, Annie is devoted to understanding the way people interact with their space on multiple levels. Learn more about Annie by viewing her bio!